While China insisted that it was not involved in the Gambia’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan, lawmakers yesterday demanded that the government review President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) policy of “flexible diplomacy” and take precautions to prevent a domino effect in the wake of the incident.
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh announced on Thursday that diplomatic relations with Taiwan would be severed with immediate effective.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) said in response to media queries, said that Beijing was caught unaware by the move and that China was not in contact with the Gambia.
In Taipei, politicians across party lines cast doubt on the effectiveness of Ma’s policy of “flexible diplomacy” that underpinned the nation’s “diplomatic truce” with China.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) issued a three-point statement saying that the incident demonstrated the failure of Ma’s policy of “flexible diplomacy” and that the government must immediately engage in crisis management to prevent a domino effect.
The DPP demanded that the government explain in detail why the Gambia cut the ties and that officials in charge of national security and diplomatic affairs resign.
The party also asked Ma to shift his policy away from managing cross-strait relations as a priority to focusing on foreign policy and issues of international and regional concerns.
Meanwhile, government officials, Presidential Office Secretary-General Timothy Yang (楊進添), Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and Deputy Vice Foreign Minister Simon Ko (柯森耀), all said that the incident could be attributed more to Jammeh’s “personal characteristics” than either China or Ma’s policy.
Jammeh did not give any reason as to why it has also withdrawn from the Commonwealth after 48 years and that the UK was also in the dark, they said.
DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) asked the government to be vigilant about relationships with El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic, saying that all are in danger.
The government should terminate aid projects, which are being implemented in the Gambia, DPP Legislator Hsueh Ling (薛凌) said.
According to DPP Legislator Liu Chao-Hao (劉櫂豪), the aid projects for the Gambia in next year’s government budget were valued at NT$400 million (US$13.5 million).
Jiang did not take the advice, saying that the government would only end the projects — including in the areas of medicine and construction and agriculture — if it fails to retain relations with the Gambia.
Should the government fail to retain ties, about 200 Gambian students studying in Taiwan under scholarship schemes run by the government will not face immediate deportation to the Gambia, Jiang said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), an outspoken supporter of “flexible diplomacy,” said the government has to get to the bottom of the situation of whether China broke the tacit agreement that underpinned the policy of “flexible diplomacy.”